This is a piece largely based on ignorance.
But don’t break away just yet. Because I’m here to tell you about a razor-sharp post-punk/dream pop/noise-pop band from San Jose, Costa Rica called Dylan Thomas. (A period at the end of “Thomas” is part of the name). If you google them you will likely either find information about a Welsh poet of the same name (Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night) or any one of myriad other artists called “Dylan Thomas”. Most of them sound exactly like you would think.
Look for the period. When you see it you will know you’re in the right place.
I’ll tell you a brief-ish story. It’s about how I discovered them..
The rabbit-hole I journeyed down roughly a year ago is as follows: A post-punk band I’m into called Soft Kill is touring with another band I absolutely love (Soviet Soviet of Italy). Though they’re not coming anywhere near me (Soviet Soviet was kicked out of the United States, that’s a story for another time, kids), I keep track of the tour via flyers posted by the bands on Instagram and the like.
On one such flyer for a show in Mexico, I noticed a band named Sway had been billed with them. I’m in the habit of always looking up tour-mates, just in case they are anything like the headliners. So I got on my music app and sifted through the virtual ton of bands called Sway like I’m panning for gold. I knew them as soon as I heard them (You should check them out). A band with the aesthetics of Diiv with vocals far down, drowning beautifully in the mix. I got excited. I knew I was onto something huge. I was only one step away from finding Dylan Thomas.
“Fans of Sway also Like Dylan Thomas.” my robot informed me.
So here we are. I have stumbled upon (Thanks in no small part to Soft Kill) this entire lovely Costa Rican dream pop/post-punk scene made up of bands with names like Sway and Queridos Edificios and Dylan Thomas. This, for me, is no small find.
See, the ignorance I mentioned earlier refers to my inability to comprehend any other language than English. It brings up an interesting effect I get when I listen to Dylan Thomas. That is, I don’t think I could enjoy these magnificent songs any more than I do even if I could comprehensively understand Spanish. I mean, I would still enjoy them, but in a different way. The vocals are clean, for this genre, at least. And they wash over me like any other instrument. The elegance of the language isn’t lost on me; The melodious phonetics are pleasing to the ear as they blend seamlessly with the music, which is some of the best I’ve ever heard, no joke.
The dreamy, verbed-out guitars transport you, in minor-keys, to the most memorable, emotional moments of your past. And hold you there suspended, perfect.
I spent a lot of time with Dylan Thomas.’s debut ep, 2017’s “Suceso en la Plaza”. Four songs. It goes by far too quickly. Set it on repeat. Send it to all your friends that know their shit. They appreciate it too and validate your find. You get psyched because you found a thing. It’s your thing.
I won’t go too far into the ep. It speaks for itself, no matter the language.
I was pleasantly shocked when I rolled out of bed last Friday and noticed, through my typical weekly browsing, that Dylan Thomas. had just released a new song.
It’s called “Luces Violeta” (Violet Lights) and it’s something special if I do say so myself. Imagine, if you will, a lone, tinny, guitar being picked slowly…drenched in reverb, in a somber fashion. It is almost immediately joined by a second, more distorted, up-front guitar that seems to be a little more based in reality. The effect is like waking from a dream. The rhythm section is stringent; bass-guitar bell-clear and hi-hat groove building in speed with its sibling strings. When the tune reaches its desired pace we are approaching a frenzy close to punk rock. The build-up is pleasingly reminiscent of an impatient take on the intro from Joy Division’s “Ceremony”, without being a carbon-copy of it.
The vocals take on a simplistic melody, fitting perfectly with the neatly chaotic pattern of the music. The sum of these elements is a stylish, seriously cool indie/post-punk tune. All of the charm is there without the pretension. It’s fun. It’s also serious. I turn it up to a ridiculous volume and a notion takes shape; these guys are probably pretty noisy live.
I hope I get the chance to find out one day
I was able to get in touch with these young men and they were gracious enough to answer a few questions for me (despite being on tour in Mexico…details above):
JC: Who is in the band?
Seba: Esteban Garita (bass), Seba Álvarez (guitar), Diego Cordero (drums) and Jan Pfeiffer (voice and guitar).
JC: What are your main influences?
Jan: Beach Fossils, Le Mans, Sonic Youth, Parquet Courts, Deerhunter, Beat Happening, The Birthday Party, Astrobrite, A Place to Bury Strangers.
JC. Can you tell me about the tour?
Esteban: Sure, we are starting a short tour on Wednesday 13 (Feb) through a couple of cities in México. It will be our first tour and the first time we play outside of our country.
JC: “Luces Violeta” is a very powerful tune. What are it’s themes?
Jan: This is a somewhat old song. It’s mainly about finding comfort in another person.
JC. Can we expect a new album anytime soon?
Jan: Actually we recorded a couple of tracks last week and we hope to release them later this year on an EP. We hope to begin the recording process of our first LP in late December.
JC: What do you guys do for fun when you aren’t making and performing music?
Jan: We all do different things. Esteban is a filmmaker and mainly occupies his time between music and film. He actually won the jury award at the Shnit Festival in San José last year with his short film “Instinto”. Diego is an airplane pilot and also records local bands. Seba and me mainly use our time making music for other projects or just listening to music, besides going to college and working odd jobs.
JC: How the members meet?
Jan: Our old bass player and I were drunk at the closing party of “El Steinvorth”, a legendary alternative bar of San José, on late December 2015. We were barely 18 and we had tried to start a band for almost a year by then. Diego was there and we asked them if he wanted to play with us, we didn’t know him but he said yes. A couple of days later they came down to my house and we jammed in the living room. We debuted on February 2016. Seba started playing with us in November of that year and Esteban in May 2017.
JC: If you had to peg your sound down to a particular genre, what would it be?
Jan: Probably noise pop? Don’t know honestly. At first, we just tagged ourselves as indie cause it’s easier to identify, after a while, we started tagging ourselves as shoegaze because we got bored of describing the band in just one way. Now we don’t really care that much about what we call ourselves.
JC: Admittedly, I don’t speak Spanish very well, but your music touches me as much as anything I can follow in English. Do you also believe your tunes are universal?
Jan: We had never really thought about it, honestly. We take it as a really great compliment, you saying that. In a way, the words are not that important for us, so maybe that’s why the music transmits a message more easily. I guess we just focus on the feeling the music conveys rather than on words.
JC: Tell me about the San Jose music scene.
Esteban: We have lots of great bands. Las Robertas, Ave Negra, Niño Koi and Monte are some of the biggest ones, these are the bands that inspired us early on when we were in high school, and still do. In regards to the new wave of bands, we have a diverse bunch. Queridos Edificios, Las Pyramides and Sway are bands that we are really close with.
JC: Where can we find you on social media?
Seba: We mainly register ourselves as “dylanthomassjo” on most platforms. Our IG is @dylanthomassjo. Bandcamp is dylanthomassjo.bandcamp.com .